Editorials: Fixing Citizens United | Geoffrey R. Stone/Huffington Post Any intelligent person following American politics these days should be deeply distressed by the ever-growing role of big money in our electoral process. The extraordinary concentration of wealth in the hands of relatively few Americans has completely distorted the nature of political discourse. As multi-millionaires, billionaires…
Any intelligent person following American politics these days should be deeply distressed by the ever-growing role of big money in our electoral process. The extraordinary concentration of wealth in the hands of relatively few Americans has completely distorted the nature of political discourse. As multi-millionaires, billionaires and powerful corporations are now free to spend unlimited amounts in order to dominate public debate, we have moved from a political system founded on the aspiration of one person/one vote to one increasingly founded on money/money/money. Of course, there are those who say that money doesn’t really matter. What matters, they say, is the quality of the candidates and the strength of their ideas. Unfortunately, in a world of high-stakes and high-cost media, this is nonsense. Speech matters. It shapes people’s perceptions, knowledge and attitudes. Why else would businesses spend billions of dollars each year on commercial advertising? Corporations and billionaires are not stupid. They would not waste millions of dollars to fund an endless flood of political ads if those ads didn’t pay off. They do. Money may not guarantee victory, but it definitely helps. Imagine a presidential debate in which the candidates were invited to buy debate time. Instead of the debate time being allocated equally, each candidate would bid for minutes, so the candidate with the most money would buy the most minutes in the debate. What would we think of that? That is effectively what has happened to our political system. This is a disaster for our nation. It alienates voters, enables a coterie of highly-self-interested millionaires and corporations to distort our national political discourse, and causes elected officials desperately to curry favor with wealthy supporters, often at the expense of the public interest.
Campaigns and outside political groups can collect donations via text message, the Federal Election Commission ruled late yesterday. … Donations will also be capped at $10 per text, according to Craig Engle, a lawyer with Arent Fox LLP, who brought the new text-for-donation proposal to the FEC representing political consulting firms Red Blue T LLC and ArmourMedia Inc and corporate aggregator m-Qube Inc. But who does this help, and how will it affect the Super PAC-dominated campaign finance terrain? “The conventional wisdom is this in the short term benefits Obama more than Romney,” says University of California at Irvine campaign finance expert (and Slate contributor) Rick Hasen. “Obama has been raising more money from smaller donors and this is a particularly easy way to make a small donation to a campaign.” Except Mitt Romney’s campaign joined Obama’s in pushing for the FEC to make this ruling, suggesting there’s plenty of grassroots fundraising enthusiasm on both sides.
An estimated 13,075 ballots, the vast majority vote-by-mail, have yet to be counted in Shasta County, putting the results of some supervisor races in question. “We are all on pins and needles,” said Cathy Darling-Allen, the county clerk and registrar of voters. The vote-by-mail ballots were dropped off last week at polling stations around the county and the clerk’s office, she said. Poll workers reported around 5,478 absentee ballots turned in at polling places around the county. Others were dropped off at the clerk’s office on election day or were older and had yet to be counted. Shasta County also has 575 uncounted provisional ballots, according to the California Secretary of State’s count of unprocessed ballots Monday afternoon. Darling-Allen said her office had counted around 5,200 mail-in ballots turned in to poll workers so far.
It was perhaps inevitable that Gov. John Hickenlooper would sign a controversial bill governing public access to voted ballots that we and many concerned observers had urged him to veto. After all, the bill was vocally supported by elected county clerks. Not only do they understand the business of conducting elections better than anyone, they claimed the sky might fall if he didn’t sign the bill. The governor obviously had reservations about House Bill 1036, which he outlined in his signing message, but they unfortunately weren’t strong enough for him to defy the opinion of the expert Chicken Littles. Too bad. Colorado now has an election system with a privileged class of people — not only candidates but also political parties and representatives of issue committees that gave money to ballot measures — who may inspect voted ballots when everyone else, including the media, is excluded. Those of us in the non-privileged majority will not have access to voted ballots until after elections are certified — too late, citizen activists persuasively argue, for effective public oversight. Many of those activists, it should be noted, have followed election issues closely for years and know a thing or two about them, too.
Connecticut: Veto irks elections officials; law would have allowed fewer polling places | Record Journal
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s veto of legislation that would allow municipalities to reduce the number of polling places for primary elections has drawn criticism from some local election officials. Senate Bill 218 would have allowed local registrars of voters to limit the number of polling sites for a primary election. Election officials said the move was necessary to cut costs for primaries, when fewer voters turn out. Connecticut has closed primaries, so only registered Republicans or Democrats can vote in the elections. Current state law requires that all polling places be open for all elections, but the issue came to the forefront during the April 24 Republican presidential primary. With just one party voting in a race that was all but wrapped up at that point, turnout was very low.
In this firefight, the first shot was Governor Scott’s, the next belonged to the Department of Justice and the winner might just be the civil rights era Voting Rights Act up for Supreme Court review next term. What’s the story? Governor Scott’s chief election official announced Florida’s intention to sue the Department of Homeland Security for access to a federal database that would help state officials better identify and remove non-citizens currently on their voter rolls. Moments later the Justice Department counter-sued Florida for violation of federal laws. Why? Unlike other Southern States, from Alabama to Mississippi to Virginia, the state of Florida is not covered as a whole but it does have five jurisdictions subject to Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Passed in an effort to outlaw discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires covered jurisdictions to seek preclearance from federal judges, or the Department of Justice, before changes can be made “to any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting.” Florida’s unilateral action was in violation of this act.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called his determination to remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voting rolls “a no-brainer” on Tuesday, charging the administration with “stonewalling” the attempt. “We’re sitting here trying to watch how we spend our money, pay down our debt, do the right things for the citizens of our state, and the federal government tells us, ‘Oh, no, you can’t do the right thing for our citizens and we’re going to sue you,’ ” Scott said on Fox News. “It doesn’t make sense.” Scott announced on Monday that Florida is suing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to move forward, in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) filing a suit against the state over actions taken for the purging attempt. “This is protecting the rights of U.S. citizens and not diluting their vote by non-U.S. citizens,” Scott said. “When non-U.S. citizens register and vote, it is illegal, it is a crime.” Florida began purging county voting rolls this year in order to eliminate ineligible voters ahead of what will likely be a hotly contested election, but stopped due to the administration’s protests.
Editorials: Montana AG Refuses to Raise Potential Winning Argument in Citizens United Case | 11th Amendment
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock is failing to “do all he can” — as he has publicly claimed — to win Montana’s U.S. Supreme Court battle against Citizens United. He has refused to put forth a possible winning argument in the case and he won’t explain why. According to a report published on Saturday by Russell Mokhiber in the well-established Washington, D.C. newsletter, Corporate Crime Reporter, AG Bullock’s office told a lawyer who filed an amicus brief in support of Montana that the attorney general is refusing to assert Montana’s sovereign immunity from suit, paradoxically, out of fear that the immunity argument could actually win the case. The case is American Tradition Partnership (ATP) v. Bullock which challenges the validity of the controversial Citizens United case as it applies to state elections and is now awaiting the Court’s decision whether to reconsider its 2010 ruling that struck down federal prohibitions of corporate electioneering.
South Carolina: Tinubu wins in Democratic nomination in 7th District after votes for third place candidate are disqualified | TheState.com
Coastal Carolina University economist Gloria Tinubu has won the Democratic nomination for South Carolina’s new 7th Congressional District. Tinubu appeared headed for a runoff with Horry County attorney Preston Brittain after Tuesday’s voting. But late Tuesday night the State Elections Commission said that votes for third-place finisher Ted Vick would not count because he had withdrawn from the race. That gave Tinubu the majority needed to claim the nomination.
A federal judge denied a last-minute request to halt Tuesday’s primary elections. Five people who were thrown out of South Carolina’s primary had filed a request Monday in U.S. District Court in Columbia for a temporary restraining order. Judge Cameron Currie and two other federal judges denied the request following a 3 p.m. conference call with the plaintiff’s attorney and state lawyers. The judges will explain their denial in an opinion that will be issued later. The candidates in the lawsuit are Republicans Ann Smith, who was running for the Anderson County Council; Tommie Reece, who was running for state Senate in Greenville County; and John Pettigrew, who was running for state Senate in Edgefield County. They are joined by Democrats Bob Shirley, who was running for a state House seat in Calhoun Falls, and Robert Tinsley, who was seeking the solicitor’s office for Abbeville, Greenwood, Laurens and Newberry counties.
A national conservative watchdog group has added a new wrinkle to the contentious debate over South Carolina’s voter ID law. Judicial Watch announced Tuesday that it has sued the Department of Justice, saying it has not turned over public records related to its decision to block the state’s requirement that voters present government-issued photo IDs in order to vote. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. Judicial Watch said it filed a Feb. 6 Freedom of Information Act request for the records, and the Justice Department acknowledged receipt of the request 10 days later. But the department still has not turned over any records, which were due no later than March 29, the conservative group said Tuesday. Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the department over the matter in U.S. District Court last week.
The stage is set for Tuesday’s statewide primary, after one of the strangest campaign seasons in memory. Lawsuits, state Supreme Court rulings and ballot changes could lead to confusion at the polls. Signs will be posted at some precincts advising voters not to vote for certain candidates who were disqualified after ballots were printed. Other previously disqualified candidates will be outside the polls, doing petition drives. Hundreds of polling places around the state won’t open Tuesday because no one is on the ballot. How that will affect voter turnout is anyone’s guess. Election officials say turnout for a typical primary is about 15 to 20 percent of registered voters, but the decertified candidates and last minute ballot changes make this year far from typical. “Hopefully that won’t deter anybody from coming out to vote,” said Horry County elections director Sandy Martin. “There have been a lot of confusion with the candidates and various things, so it could have an impact.”
Rep. Tad Perry has asked for a recount after his 36-vote loss to Jeff Monroe in last Tuesday’s Republican District 24 state Senate primary. KCCR reports that the recount is set for the morning of Monday, June 25. The Fort Pierre lawmaker says he does not expect the results to change, but he wants to make sure they are what they appear to be.
Wisconsin: Canvass affirms Lehman recall victory for Wisconsin Senate; Wanggaard yet to concede | JSOnline
An official count Tuesday determined that Democrat John Lehman indeed won the Senate recall election in Racine, but Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard has yet to concede and is considering a recount, leaving the issue of Senate majority undecided. The seat’s ownership, and Democrats’ control of the Senate, remained an open question after the June 5 recall election. Racine County’s Board of Canvassers said Tuesday the final vote tally is 36,351 to 35,517, yielding an 834-vote victory in Lehman’s favor. The canvassers’ official tally put Lehman an additional 55 votes ahead of last week’s unofficial findings because one polling place did not report votes from a touch-screen polling machine, Racine County Clerk Wendy Christensen said. Lehman, who declared victory the morning after the election, said the board’s findings reinforced his confidence in the win. Lehman is a former senator who lost to Wanggaard in the November 2010 election.
There is much fear and frustration about the unfolding presidential elections in Egypt. So much so that the astounding historical significance of the event and its widespread consequences for the rest of the Arab and Muslim world seem to have escaped us. Analysts are asking: Has the revolution failed? Are people casting a referendum on the actual revolution when they select a formal Mubarak-era official as their top choice? Are the Islamists poised to take over Egypt and turn it into a theocracy? Is the military behind it all? Will it step in to establish “order” when people are finally tired of all these demonstrations and fear for their mundane well-being? Will the US, the Israelis, or the Saudis – with all their might and money – “allow” Egyptians actually to bring their revolution to fruition and thus effectively endanger their respective interests in the region? People in and out of Egypt were naturally drawn to a crescendo, a bravura, where the first ever democratic presidential election in Egyptian history would be the final battle scene against the ancien régime. But once Ahmed Shafiq – a senior commander in the Egyptian Air Force and later prime minister for a few weeks – emerged as the main nemesis of Mohamed Morsi – Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) founded by the Muslim Brotherhood after the revolution – people began to wonder.
Mongolia’s former leader Nambar Enkhbayar said Tuesday a decision barring him from running in upcoming elections was “illegal”, as his corruption trial was postponed for the third time. Enkhbayar — who had planned to run in parliamentary polls on June 28 before being barred from doing so last week — faces five counts of graft dating back to his time as prime minister and president of the impoverished country. But on Tuesday his first hearing was postponed for the third time after he complained of not having enough time to go over the case files and because his lawyer had left the city. “The election committee denied my application to be a candidate. That was illegal so I gave a letter to the Constitutional Court to reconsider my candidacy for the election,” he told reporters outside court in Ulan Bator.
Campaigning begins in Senegal on Sunday ahead of next month’s legislative polls, with the former ruling party crying foul over corruption probes launched against key members after the election of President Macky Sall. Twenty-four lists of parties and party coalitions are contesting the July 1 elections, in which voters will pick 150 lawmakers for a five-year mandate. The polls mark the first popularity test for Sall, who won the March 25 presidential election run-off against Abdoulaye Wade, ending his 12 years in power. Sall’s presidential coalition is favourite to win the legislative polls. But the former ruling Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS) has accused the new administration of harassing its members in the run-up to the elections.